- National Teams
BUCS will see their first Championship Finals in two years on Wednesday, as BUCS Big Wednesday is set to take place in Nottingham.
With COVID-19 having scuppered the last two years, the teams are raring to go, as Durham will have an opportunity to do a men’s and women’s double, featuring in both championship finals.
In the Men’s Championship Final, Newcastle University, winners of the men’s North Premier with a 9-1 record this season, will face off against second placed Northern finishers, Durham (8-2).
Durham and Newcastle have split their match-ups this season, both protecting their home court, so the final could well go down to the wire.
Newcastle have dispatched of UWE – who feature three of the Bristol Flyers’ BBL side, including Malcolm Delpeche – in the Quarter-Finals, and then got past three-time defending champions Loughborough 108-96 – who were stacked with four players from their BBL squad, including Darien Nelson-Henry, Patrick Whelan, Kimball Mackenzie and Jubrile Adekoya.
Newcastle are led by the ever-dependable Ronald Blain (pictured, above), as Brandon Federici provides sharp shooting from the perimeter, David Moya runs the point, while Logan Rooney has proven to be an x-factor with his versatility.
“Winning these two very difficult playoff games makes us feel like we really earned our spot in this final,” Newcastle Head Coach Mark Elderkin said.
“Getting to the final is huge for our programme and puts us on the BUCS Premiership map as one of the top teams in the country.
“We go up against a very talented Durham team who have equally earned their right to be there. We split the regular season so we know how well prepared they will be and we also know what they are more than capable of. It’s shaping up to be a really interesting final.”
Led by former BBL point guard Chris Jones, Durham have ample firepower, with Dante Langley averaging over 25 points per game this season, and Levi Lamb, Christian Fioretti and Frank Okeke all being key contributors.
They have advanced to the final by the slimmest of margins, defeating Solent University by 1 in the semi-final, after beating Bournemouth by 4 in the quarter finals.
The final represents a chance for vindication for Durham, who were heavily favoured to win it all in 2020 before the season was called off due to COVID.
“We lost out on playing the Championship game in 2020 with a great team so it meant a lot personally for this team to get us there again,” Durham Head Coach Ian Hewitt commented.
“BUCS Wednesday is a great event and we are excited to be part of it. We have no doubt the final will have great basketball on display.
“We know we move the ball better than any team in the competition and despite only having 13 games together we are starting to click, it’s going to be a high paced game with lots of talent on the floor.”
The game will tip off at 8pm in Nottingham and will be streamed live on YouTube here.
In the Women’s National Championship Final (5:30pm), it is a match of the top two seeds from the North and South, as Durham (7-3) will face off against undefeated Essex (10-0).
Essex, led by their big three of Lucrezia Costa, Megan Haines (pictured below) – a Hoopsfix All-Star Classic alumnus, and Andrea Kohlhaas, defeated Northumbria – who last won the title in 2019 – in the quarters before escaping Loughborough by five in the semi-finals (75-70).
“We’re excited to be competing in the university’s first ever basketball final,” Head Coach Tom Sadler told Hoopsfix.
“This has been something we have been working towards the past few years, and are hoping to go out and represent the South Conference well. We know Durham well from playing them in the WBBL. Lee (Davie – Durham Head Coach) is a great coach and friend of mine that I know will have them ready to play.
“All of their players play extremely hard for 40 minutes and it will be important for us to try and limit their second chance opportunities.”
Durham needed overtime to escape Cardiff Met 82-78 in the semi-finals to book their spot in the final, and got past Edinburgh in the quarter-finals, as they are led by the duo of GB 3×3 guard Katie Bennett and American Elle Hendershot.
“As a group we are really looking forward to the BUCS National Championship game,” Coach Davie told Hoopsfix.
“After starting the year 1-3 and finding ourselves in relegation battle, we’ve spun the season around winning our last 6 games to take the Northern Premier title and then gritted out two tough games in the quarter final & semi final to make it here.
“We are a young team, but battle tested after everything we have gone through to get to this point, tomorrow is an opportunity for this great group of people to cap off a remarkable BUCS season.”
“It still hasn’t quite sunk in that we’re in a national final. I’m so excited for us. It’s crazy how much we’ve improved since the beginning of the season. I’m loving the way we play hard, we play fast and we play together.
“We deserve to be there and I truly believe we have a good chance of being crowned champions. As I’d say to my teammates, it’s our time!”
The final will tip off at 5:30pm and be streamed live to YouTube here.
Elsewhere, at 10am the undefeated Nottingham Trent University will take on Worcester University in the Women’s National Trophy Final, while Nottingham Trent – featuring Hoopsfix All-Star Classic alumnus Moyo Adekeye – and Hertfordshire – featuring Hemel Storm’s defending NBL D1 MVP Greg Poleon – will compete for the Men’s National Trophy Final (12:30pm).
The first BUCS wheelchair basketball championship will also take place, between Nottingham and Cardiff Met, tipping off at 3pm.